In his 1968 catalogue raisonné K.E. Maison lists about ninety studies of single heads and half-length figures, the present drawing being number 34. These document the artist's great interest in, and mastery of, the representation of the variety of facial expressions.
Whereas most of these studies were carried out in pen and ink, with wash, about one third are drawn in red or black chalk and then washed with watercolour. The present sheet is a particularly good example of Daumier's economical draughtsmanship: the artist first defined the features of the man's head with black chalk in a very free and sketchy manner, he then applied a light grey wash to define the distribution of the light. Like most of the more finished sketches of male heads, the present one bears Daumier's initials (compare K. Maison, op. cit., nos. 4, 6, 9, 14, 26, 32-4, 37, 46, 48-9, 75-7).
The present drawing does not seem to be related to a painting, nor is it clear whether Daumier portrayed a specific sitter or just drew from his memory. A precise dating of his drawings is difficult to establish, as cited by Maison (op. cit., p. 8f.), due to the artist's habit to 'draw at various times in a variety of styles', a precise dating of his drawings is difficult to establish.